Sen. Mitch McConnell was successful in securing his "freedom to fish" language in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 Conference Report, the final version of the bill.
McConnell's provision continues a "permanent ban" on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' ability to enforce any attempt to restrict public access to fish the tailwaters of the Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams in Kentucky.
The House of Representatives is expected to consider the WRRDA Conference Report next week followed by the Senate.
McConnell's provision will permanently prevent the Army Corps from enforcing any attempt to restrict fishing access by giving states the ability to determine how best to regulate public access to these areas. The bill also prohibits the Army Corps from ever constructing physical barriers to these public areas or attempting to implement any kind of a restricted area using signs in the Cumberland River.
"This is great news for fishing enthusiasts and business owners in Kentucky," McConnell said. "Many Kentuckians are struggling in this economy, and the last thing they need is the nanny state shutting down a critical local resource. Many in our state have depended on these waters for years, and it's outrageous for the federal government to propose such action with complete disregard for the people affected most directly by the policy."
McConnell argued that the blocking of fishing access to the tailwaters of Lake Barkley and Wolf Creek would not only deprive fishermen of a beloved pastime, but also impact tourism and Kentucky's economy.
Lyon County Judge Executive Wade White praised McConnell's efforts.
"I'm so excited that it is this much closer to final passage, and I appreciate Sen. McConnell making this such a high priority," said White.